Fire devastation averted

This Lynbrook grass fire engulfed a classroom. Pictures: KEITH PAKENHAM - CFA

SIX suspicious blazes in Greater Dandenong during the worst bushfire conditions since Black Saturday prompted a police appeal for witnesses and community vigilance.
Greater Dandenong CIU Acting Detective Sergeant Luke Kirton said five fires were deliberately or recklessly lit on Friday 4 January – when the temperature exceeded 41 degrees – and another on Sunday 6 January.
“It’s concerning that on the most extreme fire day we’ve had this summer we’ve seen a spike in fires,” he said.
“One would have hoped common sense would prevail.
“We’ve seen the devastation fire can cause in recent years.
“Starting a fire – whether recklessly or deliberately – is criminal.
“If people are found to recklessly cause a fire they still face the same serious charges.”
The most serious blaze started in Dandenong South residential street Obec Mews about 12.10pm on 4 January and quickly spread.
“It jumped the Dandy Bypass in seconds and it jumped 80 metres,” Act Det Sgt Kirton said.
“You can see how quickly it can get out of control.
“If it had continued heading south, factory areas would have been in jeopardy.”
It burnt about 10 acres of grassland before CFA crews with 14 tankers, six pumpers and three helicopters brought it under control about 3pm.
“It could have easily been a couple of hundred acres,” Act Det Sgt Kirton said.
“Lucky the CFA did a great job extinguishing it very quickly.”
About 3.45am the same day, four alcohol-affected youths gathered leaves and paper and set fire to a tree on the roundabout at the Cleeland and Herbert streets intersection in Dandenong.
The CFA extinguished the fire which Act Det Sgt Kirton said would probably have burnt out on the roundabout.
“But you never know with high winds,” he said.
About noon the same day patrolling police noticed smoke and flames in a garden bed at Dandenong RSL in Clow Street.
Firefighters extinguished the fire, which caused damage to the shrubbery area.
“That was during the day when the heat was starting to pick up and the wind was starting to pick up as well,” Act Det Sgt Kirton said.
Someone entered the backyard of 11 Grace Park Avenue, Springvale, about 12.30pm and set fire to an old television.
Strong winds spread the flames to the vacant weatherboard home but firefighters were able to prevent extensive damage.
About 3.45pm Aberdeen Drive residents smelled smoke in their Dandenong North street and called triple zero.
CFA crews arrived to find a fence between properties 43 and 45 alight and extinguished the fire, which cause minor damage to the fence.
On 6 January flames engulfed a palm tree outside the Astra Billiards factory at 2 Round Tower Road, Dandenong South, about 6.15am.
The CFA extinguished the fire without it causing further damage.
Act Det Sgt Kirton urged anyone with information on the fires to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 and to keep an eye out for arsonists.
“We can’t be everywhere at once and we need their help,” he said.
“No one should tolerate this behaviour.”
In neighbouring Lynbrook a grass fire in Evans Road about 3pm on 3 January spread under a portable classroom and ignited the building and a storage shed containing a tractor and other equipment.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.